By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Yankees signed former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon as an insurance policy before the season and the beefy right-hander paid a huge dividend with a brilliant 3-1 victory on Wednesday.
Colon, 37, hitting 96 miles an hour with his fastball, went eight innings for the first time since 2007 in beating his old Chicago White Sox team mates to raise his record to 2-1.
The Dominican got all his offensive support on one swing of the bat by compatriot Robinson Cano, who lined a three-run homer to right in the first inning off starter and loser Mark Buehrle (1-3) for his sixth round tripper of the year.
"He's been huge for us," Joe Girardi said about Colon after notching his 300th win as Yankees manager. "Every time he's taken the mound he's given us a very good chance to win. His production has been huge."
Colon's resurgence may prove to be more critical than anyone could have imagined.
Girardi said medical tests done on starter Phil Hughes, who was put on the disabled list because of a "dead arm," had shown the promising young pitcher might have a circulatory problem.
Hughes will be checked by a specialist in St. Louis to determine the extent of the problem, the manager said.
Colon, who went 3-6 with Chicago in 2009 and did not pitch in the majors last year, was making his second start for New York and his first before the Yankee Stadium fans.
"I'm very happy," Colon said through an interpreter to reporters crowded around his locker. "In the spring, Girardi said if anything is going to happen, you'll be the man."
"I'm not really surprised," added Colon after giving up seven hits and one run and throwing 99 pitches. He struck out six and walked one before giving way to closer Mariano Rivera, who retired Chicago in order in the ninth for his eighth save.
"The more I pitch, I feel better."
Colon faced his biggest jam in the second inning after the White Sox loaded the bases with none out.
Throwing two different versions of his fastball, Colon struck out Gordon Beckham looking, got Omar Vizquel to fly out to left and Juan Pierre to sky out to center.
As the game wore on, Colon got stronger and the game flew by, completed in a brisk two hours, 11 minutes.
"For Bartolo, his whole career, when he hits the sixth, seventh, eighth innings his velocity goes up. He has an extra gear," Girardi said. "He had an outstanding game."
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen also applauded Colon's efforts.
"Amazing. Wow. I can't remember seeing him like that since he was in Cleveland or with the Angels," said Guillen, who managed him in 2009.
"But I feel proud of him, especially after knowing all the arm issues that he has gone through."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)